What if my kids tell me to, “Just talk in English?”

Do your kids get upset with you sometimes when you speak in a foreign language? Do they say, “Just talk English!” I completely get this. One of my kids used to point to his mouth and say, “Mom! Just talk how I am talking right now.”

The problem for you is that you’re excited to talk in a new language with your kids. Or maybe you’re a native speaker and you’re excited for your kids to now speak your language, but they aren’t as enthusiastic— they don’t want to do it. The problem for your child is that this is either too hard for them or too different (or both). Here are three things that you can do to help overcome the problems of foreign language being too hard or too different.

1. Make it easier.

There’s no reason learning a foreign language needs to be hard for your child. If you can make it easier, it will soon become easy. Your child has already spent so much time learning English. Now they’re starting all the way back at the beginning with a new language.

I recommend when you use a new phrase with your child, make it an “ice cream sandwich.” Say it in the new language, then say it in English, then say it in the new language again. That way your child automatically learns what it means. Soon, you’ll realize that your child knows exactly what this phrase means, and you can drop the English. You made it easy for them, and you’ve overcome the problem of it being too difficult.

2. Make expectations clearer and smaller.

When you’re choosing phrases to practice, don’t choose a ton of phrases, just choose one or two, and be very clear with your child. To give clear expectations, you might say, “These are the two phrases that I would really like you to use today.”

This way, you’re not expecting everything from your child. So if they don’t use another phrase you’ve learned, you’re not feeling disappointed or upset. You’re focusing on just these one or two phrases.

If your child forgets to use the day’s phrase:

  • You might say, “Oh, do you remember how to say that in German (or whatever language you’re doing)?” If they don’t, look it up or help them to say it.
  • You might want to say the phrase in the foreign language and ask, ”Do you remember what that phrase means?” If your child tells you what it means in English, you might respond, “Awesome! I would love for you to use that today.”

Using gentle reminders like these keeps your child from feeling like they’ve failed— failure seems so final. Instead, they add to their memory bank, and they’ll be able to use those phrases when the situation comes up in real life.

3. Make the language come to life

A new language is very different. To remedy this, gain an understanding of the place where the language is spoken— this can be done in English.

A few ideas are:

  • Read books in English about the areas where the language is spoken.
  • Watch movies that take place in that area.
  • Go out to eat and try foods from that area.

Here is a specific example from my own experience. I grew up in an area that was mostly made up of families from Korea, and I loved it. I was always around the Korean culture, but my kids didn’t grow up in the same kind of environment.

I would love to learn Korean with my family, and I am easing them into that idea.

  • I started watching Korean shows that I liked. My family didn’t have to watch them, they just noticed me watching.
  • We started going to Korean bakeries and restaurants.
  • We started reading a book where the character lived in, and had adventures in, Korea.
  • We started learning about the history of Korea.

Now my family knows that this is a place where Korean is spoken, so that it didn’t seem so different to them, anymore.

You can use these ideas to make the culture of the new language come to life for your child. Then when you start using the language, you can more easily get them on board because they feel comfortable with the idea.

I don’t want you to have regrets of not doing this while your kids are young. Many parents have so much regret when their kids say, “Hey, why didn’t you teach me when I was younger?” But they think, “How could I? I couldn’t have done it.”

I don’t want you to feel like that. Learning a language as a family is a great opportunity, and I know that you can do this.

Remember these three things:

  1. Make it easier by using the ice cream sandwich: foreign language, then English, then foreign language.
  2. Make your expectations clearer and smaller, so you’re all on the same page.
  3. Make the language come to life.

If you’d like to start practicing the gentle approach to learning a foreign language, try our free starter pack! Go to: www.talkbox.mom/ball

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